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12 September, 2018 - 16:53 By Tony Quested

Cambridge AI can lead the world for next 50 years

Six times Cambridge artificial intelligence pioneer PROWLER.io tried to bring in one of the best mathematical brains in the world from Africa and six times the Home Office rejected the visa bid.

Finally, after six months of campaigning with the aid of an in-house immigration law specialist, the company succeeded in getting their man from Kenya – identified by chairman  Carl Rasmussen as essential to PROWLER.io’s dream of creating a Cambridge technology that could lead the world for half a century or more.

PROWLER.io has since, on the advice of its home-grown immigration law expert Eba Kamaly, tapped into an advisory service from the Home Office designed to prevent the pitfalls and pratfalls that can beset a company committed to hiring the best brains on the planet on behalf of the Cambridge technology cluster and UK plc.

PROWLER.io co-founder and CEO Vishal Chatrath tells Business Weekly that the business is in the process of raising between $30 million and $40m in the next few months. But he says he invested the company’s very first dollar in hiring Kamaly and “it has been the best money we have ever spent.”

Chatrath attended a recent summit with Government officials who asked attendees to cite the biggest threats to their businesses. There was no hesitation from the PROWLER.io camp. If the Government facilitated a drain on global talent to the UK after Brexit, the opportunity of a lifetime would be lost to Cambridge and Britain, he told them. 

Chatrath, who employs 27 nationalities among one of the fastest growing workforces in UK technology, told me: “The US would normally, based on history, expect to replicate what it has done in the past and dictate the pace of a new wave of technologies but that is not the case here – not in AI.
“A lot of companies in the UK and further afield are saying they are at the leading edge of AI but this is pure hype; they are thrashing around in the space. 

“We are creating the ultimate model in developing an Artificial Intelligence stack that represents the world’s best, most reliable and innovative platform for genuine decision making. The decision making capability is the Holy Grail and that is what PROWLER.io is leading the world in creating.

“We are building an entire AI decision making ecosystem in Cambridge which can allow the cluster to dominate the field for the next 50 years. It is a once in a century opportunity and if we screw it up it will only be because the UK is not allowing the global talent to come to Cambridge where they know we are leading the world.

“Forty-eight per cent of our staff is non-UK so does Cambridge and the UK want to build a genuinely world-leading business in AI or not?”

Chatrath revealed that PROWLER.io has regularly spent £25k per head to bring AI superstars and their families from overseas to Cambridge where headcount will be up to 200 in the next 18 months. Once they are tempted here, finding accommodation is presenting another problem but the company is working with the entire family to find solutions. 

“We talk to the employee’s wife or husband – even their children – to establish their requirements and then work hard to ensure they are adequately looked after. 

“It has become a prime consideration; to be honest, finding the right people wherever they are based on the planet and pulling out all the stops to get them here and settled is the only way we as a company and Cambridge as a technology sector can establish our credentials and credibility. Otherwise the prize goes elsewhere and why should it when we have the market lead and the solutions in our own hands?”

PROWLER.io moves this month into a new 26,000 sq ft office headquarters in Hills Road – a stone’s throw from Apple’s Cambridge base. 

A Cambridge HQ will remain crucial to the company’s global growth strategy in the long term, Chatrath insists. The company employs 41 PhDs – a balance which a lot of technology companies would sniff at, he believes. Recruiting top brains from Cambridge University is integral to the company’s ongoing growth plans.

Chatrath said: “It is a myth that PhDs and mathematicians cannot help grow a highly focused technology business such as ours. We are disproving that prejudice on a daily basis.

“These are all highly intelligent people playing a central role in the ongoing development of our business towards being the UK and world number one AI decision-making platform. I am an engineer but can recognise and appreciate the brainpower our PhDs are bringing to our development.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Vishal Chatrath, CEO of PROWLER.io

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